Experts warn of risks from tanning beds

Gabe Davis

College students are flocking to tanning salons to brown their bodies for spring break, but health experts said tanning can lead to major health problems.At the Sizzlin’ Cabana, 110 Sherman Ave., business “is up 100 percent,” said employee Sally Hauser. Like most tanning salons, the Sizzlin’ Cabana provides low-, medium- and high-pressure tanning beds.”Low-pressure beds use a UVB ray,” Hauser said. “What that does is, it tans the top layer of your skin. High pressure is a UVA ray. It tans down into the second layer of your skin so it brings out more of a brown. It’s a better tan.”With the trend toward darker skin, some students still question if it is healthy.”In all honesty no, but it makes you look good,” Hauser said.JoAnn Borer, owner of The Clothesline, 118 Sherman Ave., encourages students to tan before spring break, but said “you just have to be careful.”Local salon employees said salons are a great way to tan year round.”Tanning is smart,” said Luella Gustafson, owner of Electric Beach Tan and Travel, 809 Wheeler St. “You’d die without the sun. You’d die without exposure.”However, health experts couldn’t disagree more with Gustafson. “There is no healthy level of tanning at all,” said Lois Smith, registered nurse in the dermatology department at the McFarland Clinic. “UVA and UVB rays both cause the suntan, the sunburn, and they both cause sun damage. There’s no safe UV light.”Vickie Wilson, nurse for Richard Lloyd’s Dermatology office, 2521 Elwood Drive, said tanning leads to skin cancer.”We sure educate a lot on this, but most of the time it does no good because [people] are after that golden skin,” she said.Tanning breaks down the collagen layer under the skin, Smith said.”The breakdown in collagen is what makes your skin wrinkle faster because you don’t have that layer under your skin supporting it,” Smith said. “A lot of people, when they’re older, will have the easy bruising or the paper-thin skin, and that’s also an effect of UV rays on your skin.”Gustafson said tanning beds provide a healthier tan than laying out under the sun. “By having some base tan going, your DNA is all ready, ‘hello, I’m going to start producing some color,’ so it’s already active,” she said. “Anything that’s active helps you as a precautionary measure.”However, pre-tanning is just as bad, Smith said. “People think they are going to protect themselves when they go on vacation if they tan first, and really all they’re giving themselves is about a SPF protector of 4,” she said.Smith recommends using a sun protection factor of 15, but she said an SPF of 30 is better. A SPF rating of 30 means skin can be in the sun 30 times longer than normal before burning, she said.”We have got to take precautions,” said Douglas Yarger, professor of geological and atmospheric science. “The natural part, just being out in the sun or laying on the beach or around in the waters, is just not a good thing. You’ve got to put on a really good protector.” Scientists have kept a careful eye on the harmful effects of UV rays for years, Yarger said”The data shows that the ozone layer has been depleted by the cloroflorocarbons and frion, and this [depleted ozone] is something that is going to be with us for quite a long time,” he said.The depletion of the ozone layer correlates strongly with the increase of skin cancer cases, Yarger said.”The protection that we used to enjoy is no longer there,” he said.Tanning beds have even more UV emissions than the sun, Smith said. When a person tans naturally, there is some atmospheric protection, but that protection is taken away when you start tanning in the tanning beds, she said.”Tanning beds are more intense; you’re a lot more closer to the rays themselves,” Wilson said. “Overall, both are bad.”Any damage to the skin is permanent, and burning in tanning beds is especially harmful, Borer said. “Your skin never forgets the damage done to it, and there are no ways to reverse sun damage,” he said.